Saturday, March 17, 2007

Let's Talk About Blocks

I've had a week of painting frustrations - starting something and not being able to finish. In three years, that's hardly ever happened to me. I spend hours pouring over thousands of photographs and soon they all look the same. I've hit a block.

It's hard to imagine, in a world of images and objects that nothing inspires. I want to paint everything, but a block can take over and cause me to see nothing. More like nothing I haven't seen before. Or painted before. That's impossible. So I begin to realize it's probably the momentum I've lost. After the show in February, I got sick, my dog had surgery and I got sick again. I fell off that prolific treadmill.

So..... last night I forced myself to get out in the real world. Seek out some inspiration. I went to the High Museum, listened to a kickin' jazz band and looked at art. And people looking at art. I even took part in a drawing session in one of the galleries - a live model was doing 10 minute poses. The images you see are from that event - and I have to say, it felt great to just draw. And I think it's what I needed. To step away from the studio and the computer and get involved in something else. Hopefully I'll get right back on that treadmill and those creative juices will start flowing again. It happens.

Anyone who wants to share how they work through these blocks - please share with all of us. It's helpful, to all of us.


Chris said...

I tried explaining this very phenomenon to my sister once — painters block, like writers block. She works in a bank. It was difficult trying to explain a creative process to someone who works in a bank. I was experiencing one of those blocks. She just starred at me blankly.

This van Gogh quote always helps me:

"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."

Anonymous said...

For me a block is like I am outside of my body and someone else is inside blocking me from my work. Sometimes just stepping away and doing one of the many mundane necessary jobs we humans have to do everyday, like cleaning or laundry or even gardening which I love will spark me to get back to work and paint.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Karin, I write about my blocks (for me I consider them to be post show meltdowns) on my blog whenever I have them. I generally get them after a show, especially a successful show, because of the huge letdown after working so hard. I have tried various ways of getting through it-continuing to paint anyway, not painting, doing nothing art related at all, and wallowing in self-pity and misery, which is the most satisfying! No matter which one I do, the meltdown passes and I am able to get back to painting, no harm done usually and maybe with a bit more energy than before. So for me, it's just a matter of deciding how to pass that inevitable period of time.

Tony Vassallo said...

I think the trip to San Francisco may have caused you a mild case of burn out. A temporary thing to be sure. You'll come out swinging (that brush) before you know it.

Take a break.

Heidi Malott said...

Thankfully it is temporary, but it is so frustrating. When it hits, I need to step away. Visit a gallery, or museum, a book store that has good coffee, a movie and oh yes, my favorite, chocolate chip cookie dough!! This is also a sign for me that I might need some new reference material or plein air paint in a different location, I recently painted in a lumberyard of all places. Hang in there Karin, it will pass and you will hardly remember these feelings, because the creative juices will be flowing anew. ~Heidi

David R. Darrow said...


Karin Jurick said...

I do agree that it's post-show meltdown and I do agree that taking a break is vital. I must paint, on average, around 80 hours a week. It is my job and I forget to pace it in a healthier way. But I just can't help it. :)
Wine, cookie dough, bookstore, museums ..... they all sound right. I just had a Philly cheesesteak with onion rings and I feel much better.
Thanks everyone.

Sarah said...

Housework?! Decorating ( just another word for housework) gardening, sewing, looking at fantastic art, avoiding rubbish art, drawing just for the sake of it, playing with colour, painting abstracts and reading, thats what I do. I hate it, the blocks, no one understands unless they are also someone who is creative for a living. It is a fantastic way to live but it is also exhausting. I think that blocks are your mind giving you a break, so enjoy the pause as much as you can. The trouble is that there is just so much out there waiting to be painted, I notice your break involved drawing and then a great painting of the jazz!

Todd Baxter Dawson said...

I laughed at Darrow's comment. :-)

I heard once that anytime you are intensely involved in something over a period of time (in this case a week-long seminar), afterwards, the absence of the emotional involvement creates a void, called depression. Good to know, to guard against, and manage thoughtfully when it hits.

I like sleep, movies (they totally absorb/engage me), exercise, and house cleaning (I admit it-I do it so rarely, that it's therapeutic when it happens.

Hang in there Karin! I'll be patient waiting for my next Jurick fix. :-)

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I get a block whenever I lose momentum - when I go to shows and I don't finish something each day or I somehow took more than one day off. If I let myself do something else, it takes forever to get over the block, because I just never get that momentum back. So what I do now is swap media or the series that I'm working on. Or a different size, etc. I'm still working, but I get to have an artistic out-of-body experience.

'course, cookie dough helps too.

David Bogart said...

i just failed on about three paintings in a row (rare for me). i have also looked at over thre hundred images, and all of them bore me. im glad to hear im not the only one that this has happened to. like another blogger wrote, i think its time to take a break and get back to another activity you love to do besides painting (which is tough i know when you love to paint). in my case, it's time to go surf. after that, the world "resets" for me and i can get back to the brushes. keep up the great work karin and thank you for sharing your hardships.

Making A Mark said...

I just came across this post having missed it first time around.

One thing which works for me is rooting through my file of thousands of reference photos - for something completely different than whatever I'm working on. I don't often work just from a photo - but I do take loads to find things I like to look at.

Then there's going and doing whatever housework you've been avoiding. Always guaranteed to give me a clean home or a more creative spurt.

And I never ever get bored of looking at great art on the various art history sites on the internet. Just cruising around something unfamiliar usually generates a spark of interest in something new - and a new perspective can be generated as a result.

Anonymous said...

I find that I need to get into nature and just 'be', enjoy the incredible beauty of the small things, like shells, leaves etc., and the large, the rolling surf, wind and sun on your shoulders. I need to be in a place where I can live simply for a few days and purposely give myself rest and recreation - our 'well' needs to be refilled. I can't paint on and on without nurturing the soul.

usayinpa said...

Well a year later I wandered across your blog on artist blocks. I'm not an artist so I probably can't help you. I was inspired just a bit by your art patron series because it trys to see things from the eye of the beholder. I think that if I was an artist suffering from "block" I would paint myself staring at a big gray "block" but then I would like superman or superwoman try to see what was inside the block. Maybe it was my dog having surgery or some other thing within my current situation. Still blocked? I would try to see what was on the other side of the block. Hey there has to be something even if it is just another block because somewhere there would be a light at the end of a tunnel and when I came out I would be sure to see something. maybe that helps and maybe not but I will say I like your work. best Phil